Perfect Ten: The 10 dev stages of every new MMO class

    
24
Still proud of this shot.

Any game with classes adds new classes over time. It’s almost axiomatic. I don’t know why absolutely every game cannot be designed with the classes that the designers want from day one, and I really don’t know why I can’t say that, look at a brand-new game, and still find myself immediately asking about when I get new classes. I was speculating on new classes for Star Wars: The Old Republic when it had been out for two weeks for funk’s sake.

But whatever game you’re playing, there’s a pattern to these new classes being added. It’s an inevitable pattern, one that happens time and again. It’s also a pattern that fits nicely into an article structured around the titular number of bullet points, which is really good for me because I apparently cannot rename the column to “Perfect Seven-And-A-Half” for a week. This is also why I still haven’t gotten a drinking game in here.

1. The Requesting

Everyone will always be asking for new classes. Everyone.

You have the people who will be asking for classes based on well-known entries from whatever franchise the game is based upon or various bits of promotional art. You’ll have weird people piecing together ideas from the lore or trying to import strange ideas that just sound cool. And then you have the random jerks who want to just bring in the weirdest possible concepts and the classes that barely existed in one game so that everyone plays scythe-wielding nutjobs or whatever.

In short, designers do not have to search long for a class to announce. Once a new class is announced, you can move on to the next phase.

2. The Anticipating

The fun part of the second stage is that anticipation turns everyone brutally stupid. There is no scenario where a class dubbed the Deathwielding Killmonger will be a healer, but during this stage of things people will suggest that because it hasn’t been explicitly contradicted, it’s still possible. As someone who enjoys considering all (stupid) possibilities, I will freely admit that I am including myself here and will write lengthy diatribes about how we don’t technically know what the class can do.

As we near release, obviously the pool of “possible” begins to narrow, which leads to two reactions. The first and more common reaction is joy at finding out about the new toys. Less common, but far sillier, is anger once people realize that Deathwielding Killmongers won’t be healers because the idea sounded really silly and awesome.

I am sometimes in that group as well.

Republic Rocker would still be cool.

3. The Release

Ah, at long last! The class you waited so long for is here, and you get to enjoy it! And then, four hours later…

4. The Complaining

There are two flavors of complaining, but they’re both fundamentally the same thing. The new class is overpowered or underpowered compared to everything else, and therefore it’s either totally irrelevant or makes every other class totally irrelevant.

On some level, this degree of complaining is totally understandable because regardless of actual power levels, there’s a definite lack of perspective with any new class. Classes are, in part, defined by what they can’t do as well as what they can. When you have a completely new class, designers often give it tricks that no other class gets simply because they are playing with those definitions. That’s without even getting into the fact that there’s less sense of how the class plays out over the long run, and all you can do is compare how the class plays with jumbled rotations and guesses to classes that people have already worked out into fine-tuned machines. The classes will be a little wonky and people’s perceptions will be off.

There will also be some people still complaining about the stuff that was never actually promised for the class but that they really want. But there’s not much you can do about that.

5. The Tweaking

When a designer releases a baby class into the wild, the class is expected to be abandoned for a while. Then, after the class has been live for some time and the whining of the players has reached a certain point, the designer comes back in, picks up the class, guts it, rearranges most of its organs, and…

Wow, that metaphor got dark fast. Look, the point is that the designers adjust the class a bit, all right? I don’t know what else to tell you, I wrote that and I find myself thinking that it went to an uncomfortably dark place somewhere along the line.

Underwater class you are an underwater class!

6. The Complaining II: Electric Boogaloo

This is the last round of complaining, only usually with everything flipped. There are two possibilities here, and the more likely one is that after a bit of adjustment, the class is in a good place. Not a perfect one, that requires ongoing attention, but it works as intended. What changed is that players who had been watching the new class like hawks got used to the class being over/underpowered, and now that it’s less/more powerful it feels like a huge shift, despite the actual net result being that it’s closer to its contemporaries.

It’s also possible, of course, that in order to correct for the initial mistake the developers have gone way too far in the other direction, a tendency known as “Blizzard Syndrome.” It’s kind of like people complaining you didn’t participate enough at one office meeting and your responding by putting on a rock musical at the next meeting.

7. The Tweaking II: The Tweakening

You know what it’s like when you wake up in the morning and you’re not happy with how your hair looks? So you get up, and you take a shower, and it still doesn’t look good? And then you start fiddling with it, and you get it to looks pretty all right despite everything, but there’s just one part that still doesn’t look right? And then you keep trying to correct that one part, and then you need to change everything all over again, and then it’s been an hour and your hair looks worse than when you started because you can’t stop messing with it?

That’s kind of how class design works, apparently, and this is the “messing with it” portion.

Sometimes, of course, we don't care about things like balance.

8. The Silence

The complaints don’t stop, of course; they never stop, not even when the game is shut down and will never be coming back. But given enough time, the designers pretty much stop listening to them. In comes a period of time when the new class is still the topic of discussion for players, but the designers have, by all accounts, moved on.

You would think this would be a low point, and for a while it is. The new class is still new, but it doesn’t seem to be getting extra love, which leads to…

9. The Acceptance

Eventually, the new part of the class starts falling off. A few months out, it’s not new; it’s just part of the game, as much a fixture as anything else currently in the game. Its issues are no longer discussed as some special island among all of the classes; they’re just part of the overall network of class balance issues, and everyone can look at the whole thing more objectively.

As fun as the novelty can be, it ultimately does divide up the game’s options, and it makes something more attractive or alluring or intriguing than it might otherwise be. Reaching the point of acceptance means that not all of the issues have been fixed, but everyone’s ready to accept that it’s here and a core element of the game.

10. The Boredom

That, of course, means it’s time to start searching for something new to have in the game. Repeat from step one.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
haggus71
Guest
haggus71

Scarecrowe Scopique Except, like 50 Shades of Suck, there will be plenty of cougars who will go see the movie.  NO one saw Electric Boogaloo in the theaters.

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

Radfist You’re absolutely right that gear sets don’t change the dynamics of the game when there’s classes. But without classes I think adding new gear sets can offer a different weight or new weapons can shake things up. Even new skills that compliment new gear and weapons can radically alter a build.

Radfist
Guest
Radfist

Craywulf Ket_Viliano As someone who PvPs a lot, I like when new classes get introduced.  It shakes it up a bit and makes people rethink old strategies (if done well).  New gear sets usually don’t change the dynamic as much as throwing a new class in the mix.

Zo5o
Guest
Zo5o

I never rolled one but I remember the upset on the forums after Moria released about how they were lore breaking, over powered etc. They never worried me once the devs toned down that God awful zapping noise. They used to sound like fly killers!

BryanCo
Guest
BryanCo

Arrrrggghhhh!  You added a class that does X when what everyone wanted was a class that could do Y!  And you should have fixed the class that does Z first anyway!

MesaSage
Guest
MesaSage

Zo5o   I don’t sound bitter, do I?  I love my RK, but rarely play him anymore.

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

Ket_Viliano but adding new and different gear and skills is a lot more welcomed than adding new classes.

Ket_Viliano
Guest
Ket_Viliano

Craywulf  Not really, if the game has no classes, then what ever it is that differentiates power sets, will be the proxy. If gear is what makes the toons different, then each new piece of gear will go through the same cycle, you can watch this happen in EvE. If skills make toons different, then each new skill, or skill tree, will show the same cycle.

Ket_Viliano
Guest
Ket_Viliano

CCP / EvE does this with ships and sov systems.

melissamcdon
Guest
melissamcdon

Zo5o runekeepers were surprisingly fun, but felt absurdly against canon for Middle earth